The Morgan County Lady Dogs entered the 2017 Sweet South Classic with a 2-7 record against some stout competition. Oddly enough, they had the same record at this point a year ago and some were already counting them out. They were wrong. All that team did was win a fourth straight 8-AAA Championship as they rode a wave of emotion into the Class AAA Final Four. Can this year’s team duplicate that success? After a fine showing in their annual Christmas Tournament, they might just do that.
Josh Reeves’ squad showed vast improvement this weekend as the inexperienced players are coming into their own while the returners are beginning to assert themselves. They took the Runner-up Trophy after defeating Butler 65-48 and Walnut Grove 42-28 in the first two rounds before falling in a heartbreaker to Mill Creek 43-41 in the championship game. For their efforts, Lou Reid and Miranda Powell were named to the all-tournament team.
In the first round contest with Butler, Morgan Walker and Powell carried the Lady Dogs to an early first quarter lead of 13-9 before Reid got her game going. Fighting an injury and coming in as a substitute, the 5-4 junior scored the next nine Morgan points to take a 22-15 lead midway through the second period. The Lady Dogs outscored Butler 6-2 after that to gain the 28-17 advantage at the half.
Reid continued her offensive output in the second half with eight more in the third quarter and four in the fourth to end the night with a team-high 21 in the win. Powell added 15 points for MOCO. The Lady Dogs advanced to the finals after a defensive gem vs. Walnut Grove that limited them to 28 points on the night.
The Championship matchup turned out to be a doozy. It was a fitting end to an already great tournament with Morgan taking on the Mill Creek Lady Hawks. The two teams met earlier this year in a game that had the Lady Dogs coming up short 60-49. This one went down to the wire.
Morgan started strong taking a 12-8 first quarter lead with Aris Hubbard and Reid carrying the offensive load scoring four apiece. The Lady Dogs could only manage four points in the second period, but still held a one point 16-15 lead. The story of the first half was the scrappy play of the Morgan defense and board work by Hubbard in an outstanding effort. That line would continue throughout the night.
Mill Creek took their first lead of the game early in the third quarter hitting a three-pointer on their first possession that was followed up by a layup. The quarter saw five lead changes and ended in a 32-32 lock. Powell and Reid came up big in the third scoring seven and five respectively.
Hubbard again asserted her inside game in the final period scoring the first five points for MOCO to give the Lady Dogs a 37-34 advantage. After Mill Creek regained the lead at 38-37, Walker hit a deep corner three to put Morgan back in front and was fouled on the play. She hit her free throw to make the score 41-38 with 4:51 left in the contest. However, it was the last points the Lady Dogs would get on the night. Morgan had their chances down the stretch, but some questionable calls and no-calls along with missed opportunities led to their demise. With the score standing 43-41 and Morgan down to their last chance to tie or go ahead, they took the ball out in front of their bench with 9.0 seconds on the clock. The girls got a great look at a three and ran down the offensive rebound. The eight-footer fell short as time expired with Morgan losing 43-41. It was a tough way to end the tournament.
Coach Reeves said, “The tournament went well for us. We would have liked to come out with the championship, but the girls earned every point they got and worked hard the entire tournament. We had excellent contributions from the bench as well as our returning starters played fantastic. Miranda Powell has gotten comfortable in her role as a scorer and Aris looked as good as she ever has in the finals. With those two playing big minutes going forward, we definitely will be a vastly improving team every game. This group works as hard as any group I’ve ever had and will soon see a payoff for that.”
The girls will begin 8-AAA Region play this week with a home game against Franklin County on Jan. 2 and an away contest with the Hart County Lady Bulldogs on Jan. 5. Jan. 6 the team will host Heritage in a non-region game.